32 thoughts on “Vangelis Demonstrates His Custom MIDI Studio

  1. It would be amazin to have a set up like that, never having to think about computers, just having dedicated controls which do the specific thing you need.

    Those consoles with the rotating menu, I’ve never seen before, I’d love to know more about them.

    1. I have had synths since 83.
      For some of us it’s normal to have rack gear , etc etc It is cheap to buy good hardware on the second hand market and have dedicated machines for dedicated roles.
      No silly endless software updates etc , real tie control of effects, levels. Synth parameters etc
      I have never once looked at software as a solution to anything . I do use cubase as a midi sequencer and that’s it. I have a decent midi studio based around a good desk etc
      My mates have spent more on their computers , soundcards, controllers etc than I have on mine .
      Hardware is without doubt more stable and more value for money

  2. Didn’t see any hint of MIDI sequencing going on. (Though that was possibly going on under the scenes).

    He seems to have worked very hard (or hired designers) to build this set up for spontaneous real-time orchestra sounds.

    Gotta say, I don’t envy the minions who have to transcribe all that stuff from cassettes.

    1. How do you think those keyboards and controls work then?

      It’s pretty clear that he’s using the custom controllers to select his palette of sounds, and then he’s doing live orchestration, using his palette of sounds, with the volume pedals on the floor.

      Instead of recording one track at a time, like most of us would do, he’s controlling enough synths with his MIDI keyboards, switches and pedals that he can record entire orchestrations on the fly.

  3. Awesome! I love vangelis and have followed his work for years (since the 80’s when I discovered his music) but it’s kinda sad that he took the classical, orchestral route and abandon real synthesizers and classics that became his signature and associated with his sound such as the Yamaha CS-80. There is not a single analog or virtual synthesizer in view, and neither does his music reflect it anymore. I think he needs to go back to his roots and use more synthesizers then the current Korg PCM, and sampled waveforms that has come to define his sound which are just presets on a workstation.

    1. for a number of musicians from that era, the promise of synthesizers was being able to play any type of instrument from a keyboard… as in strings, brass, percussion, etc. etc. – these people were way ahead of their time and they definitely would have used PCM synths if they were available back then

      vangelis is not a synthesist – he is an orchestral composer… always has been

      1. Not sure how you can say that Vangelis is not a synthesist, when he pretty much single-handely pioneered synth orchestration.

        There’s a huge difference between someone like Vangelis – who’s always explored the unique possibilities afforded by synthesizers (unique sounds, playing things that aren’t physically possible for humans to play, creating an orchestra of synth sounds) – and someone like Hans Zimmer – who basically uses synths and virtual instruments to create an expanded orchestra.

        1. Morton Subotnik, Robert Rich, Steve Roach, Klaus Schulze, etc. they are all synthesists..

          Vangelis is an orchestral composer who uses synthesizers – he is certainly a genius composer, but i would not say he is a genius sound designer like the others listed above

      2. It sounds like you don’t know Vangelis music very well.

        Have you never heard Albedo 0.39, or Spiral, or Soil Festivities or the soundtracks to Blade Runner or Chariots of Fire? Beauborg?

        Tons of his music is not orchestral at all, and his early soundtracks pioneered synth orchestrations.

        Also – Klaus Schulze switched to using digital synths, sampled sounds and playing the presets in the early 80’s. I got sick of hearing the same crappy orchestral hit over and over in his music and gave up on him.

        1. all pre-PCM like I was saying…

          anyways, open your eyes and look at this video – nuff said, end of discussion

          its all there

          1. Abdul

            PCM-style sample-based synthesis was pioneered by people like Wolfgang Palm in the 70’s, and Vangelis had access to the latest and greatest synths as soon as they were introduced. You’ll hear tons of digital and sample-based synthesis on album like Direct, Soil Festivities and Invisible Connections, none of which are remotely orchestral.

            It sounds like what you’re trying to say is that, once realistic sounding virtual orchestral instruments became available, later in his career, he started using them for much of his music. I’d agree with that, but he’s also done a ton of work that features very creative synth use!

    1. For a musician with a good ear that’s trained in orchestration, it’s much easier to transcribe something like this by ear than it would be to use the MIDI.

      Vangelis isn’t playing to a click track, so his notes would not align with any measures in a DAW.

      And the notes that he plays on the keyboard are not the notes that belong in an orchestration. He’s playing chords that need to be expanded to an arrangement that’s appropriate for an orchestra.

      And each voice in the orchestration has to make sense – so a brass line has to be arranged not for a ‘brass patch’, but with lines that make sense for the trumpet, the french horn, the trombone, etc.

      A three note chord in his left hand may translate into notes spread out over 4-5 octaves in the orchestration, along with with percussion crashes, etc. A percussion ‘hit’ may include cymbals, triangle, bells and timpani.

      This is all stuff that isn’t in the MIDI notes that are captured, but is in the music that he plays. So it makes sense that he has a talented orchestrator working with him. Most orchestral film composers work in a similar way nowadays.

      1. Agree. Hand-transcribing into Sibelius is *way* faster and more accurate than trying to play each part manually, if the goal is a clean transcription rather than a nuanced performance.

      2. Everything you said is right but it also shows that he’s still using an old method because all problems you listed (tempo track, splitting instrument lines, etc…) are now handled by most of modern scoring software (Sibelius, Notation, etc…) and major DAW.

        If you look how other composers work today, they also have a large ‘template’ session with access to all instruments with different articulations, variations, etc… Hans Zimmer even have a large touchscreen to recall his patch. Definitely more modern than the Vangelis control remotes.

        Vangelis setup was great 20 years ago and it could still be great for him because he knows it well, but today that’s quite archaic and most of modern composers do have simpler setups that are just as much efficient and practical with touchscreen, motorized faders, v-pots, everything in the DAW, computer servers for Gigastudio, Kontakt, VSL, Eastwest, and all VST/AU plugins on earth… And score digitally converted.

        1. Scoring individual staffs is the opposite of what Vangelis does – realtime composition and orchestration. Anyone that’s attempted computer based orchestration can see how much faster his approach is

          Working with Sibelius is efficient if your goal is printing sheet music for musicians, but Vangelis will complete an orchestrated and fully realized composition in the time it takes you to write one instrument part in Sibelius.

          1. Oh boy… you probably haven’t understood anything I wrote. News flash for you… Scoring software (or DAW) work both ways.

            You can record midi information (a.k.a multiple-instruments tracks) in real-time in your DAW and have it converted into digital score (it’s been in used for decades already… where have you been?). I mean, c’mon, go have a look on how some of the most modern composers work these days…

            Oh, yeah, btw, Vangelis approach is based on computer too (Gigastudio sampler apparently recorded in audio in RADAR). I guess you didn’t get that too! Jeez…

            1. M

              Show us a video of anyone doing what your describing and composing and orchestrating full arrangements in real time, like Vangelis.

              Nobody said Vangelis doesn’t use computers, didn’t you see the video with the DAW prominently displayed?

              I do take issue with the suggestion that it’s faster for a competent scorer to transcribe from audio than to clean up a midi performance. What benefit would they get from using the MIDI data? It’s only useful for musicians that can’t hear intervals.

  4. I imagine it would be a pain for anyone to use that other than himself. You can see a man with real focus, getting a system built around his own workflow – working it so he does his thing. and he appears to have a completely joyful process within that, without any distractions of business or logistics – a clever man working smart.

  5. the real beauty here is the childish fun he still has after all those years, that´s what i love about making and enjoying music, it keeps you young, open and interested, even if you´re getting old.

  6. I’d rather hear a real orchestra. Sorry.

    I love Spirale and Albedo and Opera Sauvage, but ever since he gained access to high quality samples everything sounds like the soundtrack to 1492 to me. Plus, his insistence on improvising everything means he’s using the same Romantic harmonic language since the 70s. And it’s all epic, and there isn’t much thematic development.

    Oh well… At least Heaven And Hell and 666 (my favorite) still rock, 40 years later.

    1. The recycling of the same harmonic language and lack of development are the same criticisms I have of his music. I think that’s a side effect of his lack of traditional training and also his lack of interest in developing and reworking his material.

      The way music comes to him so easily, it’s easier for him to come up with a new catchy theme than it is to develop something he’s done.

      While these are valid criticisms, what he does do is still technically brilliant and musically impressive. He’s been doing this 50 years, and in that time there’s been no one that comes close to doing what Vangelis does.

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